The present study investigated the response decrement patterns produced by opiate antagonists on intracranial self-stimulation behavior, in order to determine if these drugs affect the reinforcement value of the stimulation or interfere with the ability of the animal to respond. Male rats lever-pressed in 60-min sessions on a continuous reinforcement schedule for self-stimulation of the nucleus accumbens. Naloxone (2.0 and 20 mg/kg) and naltrexone (2.0 and 20 mg/kg) suppressed self-stimulation only after a significant delay, in an extinction-like response decrement pattern, mimicking the effects of reductions in current intensity (75% and 50% of baseline). The increasing behavioral effects characteristic of the extinction pattern were observed despite the fact that testing began after the time point at which maximal suppression of self-stimulation occurs with these drugs, and when brain concentrations of these drugs were declining. Since normal responding was observed for several minutes after the beginning of the session, the results may explain why long sessions are necessary to observe suppression of self-stimulation by opiate antagonists. The extinction-like pattern produced by these drugs suggests that opiate antagonists suppress self-stimulation by reducing the reinforcement value of the stimulation, rather than by interfering with the ability of the animal to respond. These findings are consistent with a role for endogenous opioid peptides in brain stimulation reward.